Reclaiming the Commons

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= PhD thesis by Sophie Ball and research program by Focus on the Global South


PhD Thesis

* PhD Thesis: Reclaiming the Commons: a discourse for new politics . How grassroots activists are shaping the future. By Sophie Ball.

Larger excerpts via: How Commons Grassroots Activists Are Shaping the Future


Abstract

This thesis draws together a number of examples of activism and protest in order to shine a light on some of the discourses and practices that have emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that offer alternatives to the neoliberal discourse. I make the case for the political significance of the activists who have been a force for change that has been largely overlooked – until 2011, the year which saw a series of protests take place across a large part of the globe: ‘the year politics changed’. (New Statesman 2011) I present this argument through what I call the story of the commons, and assert that this narrative is evidence of a vision that has arisen piecemeal, and largely from grassroots levels. The examples of discourse and practice that this thesis explores illustrate both the emergence of the language of the commons from many different spheres of life and also its influence across a range of fields. The analysis includes a historical overview of the commons, while focusing on the evolution of the concept from the latter half of the 20th century to the present day, with the most recent material taken from events occurring in 2012.

Through this vision, we recognise what is lost through the hegemony of ongoing capitalist appropriation, accumulation and exploitation of all aspects of life and reassert rights over - reclaim - that which has been lost. Through the struggle of all those involved in reclaiming the commons, a discourse for new politics emerges and shapes the future. This thesis demonstrates the emergence of a new discourse of the commons that makes possible a reconceptualisation of social, economic and political spaces."



Research Program

Focus on the Global South's work on Reclaiming the Commons is focused on the following clusters of issues: 1) Challenging Capitalist Agriculture; 2) Promoting peoples' food sovereignty; 3) De-commodification and Comprehensive Agrarian Reform; 4) Essential Goods and Services, and; 4) Sustainable Cities."

=Discussion

"The Reclaiming the Commons programme seeks to ally with, contribute towards and strengthen efforts by social movements, and other civil society and political actors to resist private enclosures of the commons and build alternative systems of use and governance. Focus uses a broad understanding of the commons that includes: land, water, forests, biodiversity and other natural wealth; knowledge, technology and human capacity; public goods, services and living spaces, and; human rights, decision making and governance.

The ongoing finance, food and environmental crises have put the world's peoples and the commons at greater risk than before of incursions from predatory capital. Communities continue to be systematically dispossessed of their rights, resources and political voice through private property regimes. Agribusinesses and financial investors are scouring the world to buy up land, water sources/bodies, agricultural infrastructure and intellectual innovations. Corporate control over food and agriculture is being intensified through new green revolution technologies, genetically modified life forms and state support for corporate agribusiness. And urban areas are being redeveloped to accommodate the aspirations of the rich, while poor families are increasingly concentrated in areas with dwindling resources, goods and services.

In the current conjuncture, re-building domestic capacities towards self sufficiency and protecting the rights of producers, workers, communities and societies to the commons and productive capacities take high priority. Focus's work on Reclaiming the Commons is focussed on the following clusters of issues: 1) Challenging Capitalist Agriculture; 2) Promoting peoples' food sovereignty; 3) De-commodification and Comprehensive Agrarian Reform; 4) Essential Goods and Services, and; 4) Sustainable Cities." (http://www.focusweb.org/taxonomy/term/213)